Review: Kong: Skull Island

Whacky humour gets lost in this workaday Kong reboot. The monster franchise is staggering before it really begins.

Intended as the kicking off point in a new monster mash-up franchise, Kong: Skull Island will alert audiences with good memories of its interconnectedness long before the Marvel-style post-credits sequence.

Teasing the big, bad ape and his long-lost island in a WWII-set prologue, the action picks up properly three decades later as Vietnam war protestors clamour outside the halls of power in Nixon-era Washington DC. It’s into this hullabaloo that John Goodman’s Bill Randa inserts himself, taking advantage of the mayhem to fish for funding to finance a monster hunt to this whispered about outcrop of a world long lost. “Mark my word, there’ll never be a more screwed up time in Washington,” goes the film’s early peak funny.

You see, he’s an agent of Monarch, first established in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, and pretty soon he has the cash backing he needs and a team of experts to help him find the rumoured beast that includes Samuel L. Jackson and his men as the Apocalypse Now-lite Lt. Colonel Packard, insisting the war was never lost, Tom Hiddleston’s former SAS Captain Conrad, an expert tracker, and Brie Larson as war photographer Mason Weaver.

From the outset, their arrival on the storm-shrouded island, dropping depth charges supposedly to map the underground caverns but really to flush out Kong, goes horribly awry, with the towering bugger, bigger than ever, ripping helicopters from the sky. Silhoutted against the blazing sun, the Apoclaypse reference goes from clunkily suggested to hammeringly overt.

Directed by The Kings of Summer’s Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Kong: Skull Island coast along on cheesy gung-ho adventure and top notch computer graphics for roughly half of its run time, and injects a much-needed sense of whacky humour with the revelation that the WWII US pilot downed in the opening sequence is still very much alive if not quite all there, now played by John C. Reilly, but it fizzles out into the generic soon afterwards.

Writers’ Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, working from a story by John Gatins, never inspire investment in the humans, barring Reilly, but Kong is magnificent, though his various adversaries, from two-legged lizards to giant octopus, less so.

Certain scenes are ripped right from the black and white source, such as falling Larson swept up in his enormous paw, but we already saw this for the umpteenth time with Peter Jackson’s 2005 stab and the special effects her just don’t pack the same shock and awe as Edwards’ entry. Fun enough, though almost immediately forgettable, it remains to be seen if this franchise has legs, furry, scaled or otherwise.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords